AFSCME Puts Corrupt Hawaii Local in Trusteeship; Removes State Director

Hawaii’s United Public Workers has entered a new era. And it isn’t the kind its leaders were counting on. On May 1, Lee Saunders, president of the union’s parent organization, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, placed the local under trusteeship. The previous day, AFSCME trial officers had removed UPW Hawaii State Director Dayton Nakanelua and Fiscal & Membership Services Administrator Jeanne Endo from their posts. Back in mid-February, an AFSCME audit had concluded that officials of the 13,000-member UPW had been spending large sums for unauthorized purposes. “It is my responsibility to ensure that our union is run with transparency and integrity at every level – and to take action when an emergency exists,” said Saunders.

The Honolulu-based United Public Workers, also known as AFSCME Local 646, as Union Corruption Update noted a couple of weeks ago, has a history of corruption. Back in … Read More ➡

AFSCME Audit of Hawaii Affiliate Reveals Suspicious Spending

The reputation of United Public Workers, never all that favorable, has taken another hit. This February, an internal audit prepared by the parent union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), concluded that officials of the 13,000-member Hawaii affiliate spent more than $300,000 (and possibly a good deal more) on unauthorized or suspect purposes over two and half years. The 25-page report, a copy of which was obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, stated: “There does not appear to be meaningful oversight on how funds are spent and accounted for, and…the opportunity for abuse of misuse of union funds exists as a result.” The audit did not accuse anyone of criminal wrongdoing. Union officials have vowed to meet AFSCME transparency standards.   

Hawaii has been the site of an unusual number of recent union corruption cases in federal court. Raymond Fujii, former head of a contractors’ … Read More ➡

Hawaii Boss Sues Former Union; Says He’s Not Liable for Debt

afscme-logoGary Rodrigues left a long legacy as director of the United Public Workers, a Hawaii affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. A good portion of that legacy involved criminal activity, which is why for the past year he’s been residing in federal prison. In the interim, some unrelated business has come back to haunt him. And as befits his style, he’s fighting back. On Tuesday, December 9, Rodrigues’ attorney, Eric Seitz, filed suit in state court alleging that his client’s former union, and not Rodrigues himself, is responsible for repaying an $850,000 debt incurred on an investment of a decade ago. In a non-jury civil trial last February and March, U.S. District Judge David Ezra had ruled that Rodrigues was liable. This case doesn’t involve criminal charges. Yet it does shed additional light on the workings of a powerful and often corrupt public employees’ labor Read More ➡

Judge Orders Hawaii Father, Daughter to Serve Sentences

Gary Rodrigues and his daughter, Robin Rodrigues Sabatini, don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” In their case, that’s not such an admirable trait. Back in 2002, the two were convicted in federal court on nearly 200 charges of criminal misconduct, including embezzlement, mail fraud and money-laundering, in connection with the disappearance of nearly $380,000 from the United Public Workers (UPW). Rodrigues, 65, had been state director of the Honolulu-based union, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Sabatini was a union contractor. This past June, a federal appeals court in Hawaii affirmed the decision and prison sentences. But the pair is pulling out all the stops to avoid their fate. Now the court is signaling that its patience is limited.


On October 31, U.S. Circuit Court Judge David A. Ezra gave the convicted pair until January 7 to begin serving their sentences, rejecting Read More ➡